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Stand Up For The Brotherhood

“We compete against each other like crazy, but it would be pathetic if we ever displayed joy because of a competitor’s pain.”

Brian Noe

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I thought people in Canada were supposedly nice. While I’ll stop short of questioning the hospitality of an entire country, the Toronto Raptors fans — more like bozos — that cheered Kevin Durant’s injury on Monday night showed a complete lack of class. Durant suffered an Achilles injury according to Warriors general manager Bob Myers. When a sizable portion of the Toronto home crowd cheered Golden State’s misfortune, something interesting happened. A few of the Raptors players motioned for the crowd to stop applauding and to show some compassion.

Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka acted like NFL quarterbacks who motion for the home crowd to quiet down. They waved their outstretched arms downward as both players walked up to Durant to show support.

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Sure, the emotions were high in Toronto. The Raptors remain only one win away from earning an NBA championship. That still is no excuse to stoop so low by cheering for an injury. Lowry said it best. “In this league we’re all brothers. It’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.”

It got me thinking about the similarities in sports radio. This industry is like a brotherhood — a fraternity and sorority combined if you will. We compete against each other like crazy, but it would be pathetic if we ever displayed joy because of a competitor’s pain. Can you imagine Lowry or Ibaka doing a Tiger Woods fist pump while celebrating Durant’s injury? It would be an equally awful look if we ever did the equivalent in our business.

Our sports radio fellowship goes beyond avoiding a Mardi Gras style party when a competitor suffers a setback. It involves actually helping one another within the business. I met a radio host and writer named Ben White at a conference a year ago. He does some work for Wildcats Radio 1290 in Tucson, Arizona. Ben did something smart and sent some audio my way asking for feedback.

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It took me longer than intended to listen to the audio. As I was jotting down some notes for Ben the other day, I coincidentally got another email from him with some new audio attached. I went back and checked the date of his initial email. My eyes bugged out as if I just stuck a fork in an electrical outlet. He emailed me the first batch of audio on December 7! Goodness. That’s over half a year ago.

I’m pretty sure I need to learn Arizona’s fight song and say “Bear Down” instead of hello as penance. It made me think of the times in my career that I’ve done the same thing as Ben. I’ve reached out to people in the business for feedback at various stages. Don Martin and Scott Shapiro have always shown a willingness to help. Rick Scott and Scott Masteller have been happy to give me pointers. I remember sending some audio to Jorge Sedano many moons ago. He emailed me back with notes right away. Bruce Gilbert, Amanda Gifford, and Louise Cornetta have listened to my audio in the past and all gave feedback in a very timely manner. It meant more to me than they will ever know.

Don Martin mentioned something during our Q&A back in February that stuck with me. “Bob Martin got me in to cut my first tape,” Don said. “Bob Martin was the voice of the Broncos back then. I’ll never forget it. I said, ‘Bob, how can I repay you?’ He said, ‘The only thing I want from you, Don, when you make it, the first young guy that comes to you and asks you for help, you help them.’ I’ve done that my entire career because of what Bob did for me.”

That’s what I need to do. If somebody reaches out for feedback, it isn’t right to keep them waiting and waiting. Mr. Snuffleupagus running a marathon is quicker than me at this point. That needs to change. I don’t want to be so involved with my own projects that I end up shortchanging others. I need to have a different approach than Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco.

Last month Flacco was asked about mentoring Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock. Let’s just say Flacco doesn’t have advice giving at the top of his to-do list.

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“Listen, I have so many things to worry about. I’m trying to go out there and play the best football of my life,” Flacco said. “As far as a time constraint and all of that stuff, I’m not worried about developing guys or any of that. I don’t look at that as my job. My job is to go win football games for this football team.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner had an interesting response on The Rich Eisen Show. “I don’t understand that mentality at all. Not just Joe Flacco, we’ve heard a number of guys say that recently. I believe your role is to help your team be as good as it possibly can be. That’s your role if you’re the starter to be prepared and be ready to go. That’s to help all of your teammates, including the guy that’s backing you up or the guy that they want to take your job at some point, to be the best pro player that he can be.”

Image result for kurt warner rich eisen show

Warner’s view makes more sense to me. We might differ on whether Flacco should mentor Lock or not, but I can’t see any difference in opinion when it comes to a sports radio veteran helping a young host who’s trying to improve. That’s a no-brainer. It just takes effort and execution. It doesn’t make sense to question Flacco’s stance while not following through yourself. The end result is the same if that’s the case — nothing helpful occurred. That isn’t acceptable. Take the time and follow through. I’ll be doing just that for Ben this week. Many people helped me out when I was once in his shoes. I need to pay it forward.

Kyle Lowry was spot on when he described the NBA as a brotherhood. Sports radio is very similar. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in personal goals or projects, people are more important. Think of helping others as diversifying your goal portfolio. Make it a priority to help other people, not just yourself.

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

Jason Barrett

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

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Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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